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Environ Sci Technol. 2007 Dec 1;41(23):8154-8.

Sustainable power generation in microbial fuel cells using bicarbonate buffer and proton transfer mechanisms.

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Department of Biological and Ecological Engineering, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, USA.


Phosphate buffer solution has been commonly used in MFC studiesto maintain a suitable pH for electricity-generating bacteria and/or to increase the solution conductivity. However, addition of a high concentration of phosphate buffer in MFCs could be expensive, especially for wastewater treatment. In this study, the performances of MFCs with cloth electrode assemblies (CEA) were evaluated using bicarbonate buffer solutions. A maximum power density of 1550 W/m3 (2770 mW/ m2) was obtained at a current density of 0.99 mA/cm2 using a pH 9 bicarbonate buffer solution. Such a power density was 38.6% higher than that using a pH 7 phosphate buffer at the same concentration of 0.2 M. Based on the quantitative comparison of free proton transfer rates, diffusion rates of pH buffer species, and the current generated, a facilitated proton transfer mechanism was proposed for MFCs in the presence of the pH buffers. The excellent performance of MFCs using bicarbonate as pH buffer and proton carrier indicates that bicarbonate buffer could be served as a low-cost and effective pH buffer for practical applications, especially for wastewater treatment.

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